Our research group at UCL Biochemical Engineering is at the cutting edge of synthetic biology, specializing in biocatalysis and protein engineering. We explore the vast potential of enzymes and other biocatalysts, working to optimize their function, stability, and specificity for a variety of applications. By leveraging state-of-the-art protein engineering techniques with our collaborators, we aim to design novel catalysts that can accelerate or even enable new biochemical reactions.
Enzymes and biocatalysts are the workhorses of the cell, driving essential biological processes. However, naturally occurring enzymes often fall short of industrial or clinical requirements due to issues like low stability, suboptimal kinetics, or lack of specificity. Our work in protein engineering serves to overcome these limitations, transforming good enzymes into great ones and unlocking new avenues for biotechnological innovation.
Techniques and Tools
Our research employs a diverse set of methods to achieve high-precision protein engineering and biocatalyst optimization:
- Directed Evolution: Employing iterative rounds of mutagenesis and selection to evolve proteins with desired properties.
- Computational Protein Design: Utilizing in silico methods to predict how amino acid substitutions can affect protein structure and function.
- High-Throughput Screening: Rapidly assessing enzyme variants for specific attributes such as activity, selectivity, or stability.
- X-ray Crystallography and Cryo-EM/ Machine learning approaches: Providing detailed structural insights to guide our protein engineering efforts.
The applications of our work in biocatalysis and protein engineering are broad and impactful, including but not limited to:
- Industrial Enzymes: Development of robust enzymes for applications like biofuel production, textile processing, and waste management.
- Pharmaceuticals: Engineering enzymes for the synthesis of complex molecules, aiding drug discovery and manufacturing.
- Diagnostics: Creating enzyme-based biosensors for quick and accurate detection of biomarkers.
- Environmental Remediation: Designing biocatalysts capable of breaking down environmental pollutants in a sustainable manner.